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Reuniting the Union: A Chronology

Period: 1870s

December 1863: President Lincoln announces a plan for reconstructing those
The 10 Percent Confederate states already under Union control. He offered to
Plan pardon Confederates who take an oath to support the Union. When
ten percent of a state's citizens eligible to vote in 1860 swear an
oath of allegiance and a state has abolished slavery, he promises
to readmit the state to the Union.

By the end of the war, Lincoln publicly calls for limited black
suffrage in the South.
July 1864: Many Congressional Republicans believe that the 10 Percent Plan is
The Wade- too lenient since it does nothing to end the economic and political
Davis Bill power of the planter class or protect the civil rights of ex-slaves.
They also feel that the president has overstepped his authority by
issuing a plan for reconstruction without consulting Congress.

Congressional Republicans outline their plan for reconstructing the

union. The Wade-Davis Bill requires each state to abolish slavery,
repudiate their acts of secession, and refuse to honor wartime
debts. It also stipulates that a majority, rather than 10 percent, of
voters in 1860 take an oath of allegiance before a state could be
reorganized. Finally, it specifies that anyone who wanted to vote in
a constitutional convention in a former Confederate state must
swear that he had never voluntarily supported the Confederacy.

Lincoln refuses to sign the Wade-Davis Bill because, he wrote, he

is not ready "to be inflexibly committed to any single plan of

March 1865: To coordinate efforts to protect the rights of former slaves and
Freedman's provide them with education and medical care, Congress creates
Bureau the Freedmen's Bureau. One of the bureau's most important
functions is to oversee labor contracts between ex-slaves and

April 4, 1865: Lincoln's assassination makes Vice President Andrew Johnson

Lincoln's president.
May 1865: Johnson grants immediate amnesty to former Confederates who
Johnson own less than $20,000 worth of property. Other ex-Confederates
Announces His may petition him for presidential pardons, which he freely grants.
Plan for His plan to readmit the former Confederate states requires them to
Reconstruction convene conventions to disavow their acts of secession, abolish
slavery, and repudiate their war debts.

By December, all the ex-Confederate states seek readmission

except Texas. But South Carolina refuses to condemn its act of
secession; Mississippi refuses to ratify the 13th Amendment,
abolishing slavery; and several states refuse to repudiate their war

November 1865:Beginning with Mississippi, the ex-Confederate states adopt "Black

Black Codes Codes," legal codes that deny African Americans the right to
purchase or even rent land. The more stringent codes also deny
African Americans the right to bear arms, meet together after
sunset, and marry whites. Vagrancy laws allow authorities to arrest
blacks "in idleness" (including many children) and assign them to a
chain gang or auction them off to a planter for as long as a year.
Some laws allowed white citizens to arrest any black person for
such offenses as "insulting gestures" and "malicious mischief."

December 1865: Despite the failure to fully comply with his provisions for
Johnson readmission to the Union, President Johnson announces that the
Declares the Union is restored. But Congress refuses to seat the former
Union Congressional representatives from the former Confederate states.
Arguing that the former Confederate states had forfeited their
statehood and returned to the status of territories, a joint
committee of six Senators and nine Representatives declares that
only Congress, and not the president, could readmit them to the

December 1865: The 13th Amendment abolishes slavery.

The States
Ratify the 13th
February 1866: Reacting to the Black Codes, Congress attempts to protect the
Congress rights of the freedmen by increasing the power of the Freedmen's
Attempts to Bureau, giving it the power to try people who deprive freedmen of
Protect Ex- civil rights in military court. The bill is passed over President
Slaves by Johnson's veto.
Expanding the
Power of the

April 1866:
The Civil Rights Act of 1866, adopted over President Johnson's
veto, enumerates the rights of citizens of the United States,
Passes the
including the right to make contracts, sue, give evidence in court,
Civil Rights Act
and purchase and sell property.
of 1866

June 1866: Fearing that the Supreme Court might declare the Civil Rights Act
Congress unconstitutional, Congress proposes the 14th Amendment, which
Submits the guarantees the citizenship of African Americans (which is
14th necessary because of the Supreme Court's 1857 Dred Scott
Amendment to decision). It also cancels all Confederate debts, prohibits any
the States for government from providing compensation for the loss of slaves,
Ratification and prohibits former Confederate officeholders from holding public
office. Although the amendment does not guarantee African
Americans the right to vote, it reduces the Congressional
representation of states that denied suffrage.

President Johnson urges southern legislatures to reject the


Summer 1866: Rioting in Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, La., in which many
Whites Riot in African Americans are killed, convinces many Northerners that
Memphis and stronger measures are needed to protect the freedmen.
New Orleans

Fall 1866: In the fall elections of 1866, Republicans win majorities in every
Republicans northern legislature and a two-thirds majority in both houses of
Capture Two- Congress, assuring the party of enough votes to override any
Thirds of Both presidential veto.
Houses of
March 1867: Over President Johnson's veto, Congress adopts a new program for
Congress reconstruction. The First Reconstruction Act divides the former
Divides the Confederate states into five military districts subject to martial law.
South into It requires the ex-Confederate states to ratify the 14th
Military Amendment, adopt new state constitutions disqualifying former
Districts Confederate officials from holding public office, and guarantee
Subject to black men the right to vote.
Martial Law
Some 703,000 African Americans are registered as voters. In five
states--Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South
Carolina--black voters make up a majority.

February-May To prevent the president from obstructing its reconstruction
1868: program, Congress passes several laws restricting presidential
Impeachment powers. These included legislation preventing him from appointing
of President Supreme Court justices and restricting his authority over the army.
Johnson The Tenure of Office Act bars him from removing officeholders,
appointed with the advice and consent of the Senate, without
Senate approval.

In August 1867, Johnson tests the Tenure of Office Act by

removing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. In February 1868, the
House votes to impeach him by a vote of 126-47. In May, 35
Senators vote for conviction and 19 against, one vote short of
removing the president from office.

September In June 1868, six former Confederate states--Alabama, Florida,

1868: Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina--were
Georgia Expels readmitted to the Union. In September, Georgia expels blacks from
Blacks from its state legislature, prompting Congress to re-impose military rule
Its State in the state.

November 1868:Ulysses S. Grant is elected president by only 306,000 votes out of

Grant Elected 5.7 million cast. His victory depends on 500,000 black votes.
February 1869: By 1868, only eight northern states permitted African Americans to
Congress vote. Nevertheless, in February 1869, Congress proposes the 15th
Proposes the Amendment, which forbids states from depriving a citizen of the
15th vote because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The
Amendment Amendment is ratified in March 1870.
May 1870 and To suppress violent intimidation by the Ku Klux Klan and other
April 1871: secret organizations and to enforce the 14th and 15th
The Force Act Amendments, Congress passes the Force Act and the Ku Klux Klan
and the Ku Act outlawing the use of force to prevent people from voting.
Klux Klan Act
1874: Many former slaves invested their savings in the Freedmen's
Collapse of the Savings and Trust Company, which had been chartered by the
Freedmen's Federal government to teach the value of thrift. It fails following
Savings and the financial panic of 1873, and the federal government does
Trust Company nothing to bail out depositors.
March 1875: This law guarantees equal rights in public places and prohibits the
The Civil exclusion of blacks from juries. A clause that would prohibit
Rights Act of segregated schools is defeated.
1876-1877: In return for southern conservative support for Republican
Disputed Rutherford Hayes's inauguration as president, the Republican Party
Presidential agrees to withdraw all federal troops from the South, officially
Election of ending Reconstruction. The Republicans also promise federal aid
1876 for southern railroad construction and flood control along the
Mississippi River.